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An inside scoop on our leading actors and their excitement for IN SEARCHING

Jake Borelli [Jon], Aley Underwood [Michelle], Jacob Grodnik [Cole] and Evan Hall [Erik]

If there is one thing to say about the IN SEARCHING cast and crew, it is that they are passionate. Our writers, producers and pre-production crew have spent months creating the best script possible. It is because of this preparation and our talented, hard working cast that this story will be brought to life.

Before production began, I had the pleasure to sit down with Jake Borelli, Jacob Grodnik, Aley Underwood and Evan Hall to talk about the film and their biggest anticipations for the shoot. This was my first opportunity to get to know these actors and their excitement was truly contagious. Although the cast members share many similarities, mainly enthusiasm, each one is in store for a very unique experience.

With four leading roles, it is hard to imagine getting to know all of these characters well. But one of the most engaging elements of this script is each character is completely explored and developed. It is this quality that interested many of our principal cast in the project.

When I asked what drew them to their roles, each of them felt they had a personal connection to the emotions and personalities of their character. Hall, who plays Erik, said his character’s vulnerability was the biggest draw; while Grodnik [Cole] said Cole’s internal turmoil and how he puts on a “mask” as a means of dealing with his issues interested him. Both men explained that they wanted to explore the emotions behind their characters.

As for our leading lady: Underwood said she felt that she had a lot in common with her character Michelle upon first reading the script. “[She] is in the same place I was a couple years ago, fighting for the same freedom and release.” Being in that place made Underwood all the more interested in introducing the rest of the world to Michelle. Co-star Borelli also felt as though he was similar to the character. “Jon and I are a lot alike in that we are both in the middle of figuring out who we are and what is important to us.” This connection of the actors to their roles allows for genuine performances, and a rawness that will draw in the audience. Director Jake Topkis even went on to say Borelli “has an excellent insight into the character, and is going to shine in our film.” That is straight from the man himself.

“It’s nice to be able to play a character that hits so close to home,” were Underwood’s closing remarks. “Home” has a double meaning for some of our cast. Grodnik is actually returning to his hometown to shoot IN SEARCHING, and this, for him, makes the film all the more meaningful.

Whatever their reasons were, Grodnik, Underwood, Hall and Borelli were all prepared and excited to get going and, with production just beginning, I can easily say they have not been disappointed. Check back soon for an update from our cast and be sure to stay connected with the production on our Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.


In One Month, We Go IN SEARCHING

Producer/Writer/Director J.L. Topkis writes to the members of Heart-Beat one month prior to the commencement of principal photography on our first feature-length effort:


In exactly one month, we will be moving forward with IN SEARCHING at roughly 24-frames-per-second.

July 29th is our first shooting date. We will be shooting for 25 days in and around Park City, UT until August 30th.

So many of us have already been engaged on this project. Some of us have had this project in mind for years. Some of us have begun pre-production work in the last few months. In July, we have members of the team arriving each week. Lots of work has been done….BUT, none of it counts until we actualize the wonderful potential of this story each day on set.

For many of us, this will be the most challenging project we have faced. The result could be glorious. The talent on this crew is incredible, I could not be more excited to work with you. Heart-Beat has come a long way, but if we do things right in one month – we can reach the next level with our filmmaking.

Thank you for your commitment. Let’s go IN SEARCHING.

- Jake Topkis

Jake Borelli Cast as Jon

Today is a special day for us here at Heart-Beat because we have officially completed our principal casting. We are extremely proud and excited to annouce the final player in our core four, JAKE BORELLI, to play Jon.

Jake Borelli

We are thrilled to have Borelli on board, as he is a great addition to our cast. He truly embodies each and every aspect of Jon’s character, which is extremely important to the film. Jon is a good friend, a trustworthy person but he has obstacles to overcome. He is unsure of his future, feeling as though he is caught drifting between childhood and adulthood. His journey involves the coming-of-age transition into the man he is going to be for the rest of his life. He’s the archetypical hero of the story – but he is weighed down by self-doubt.

Borelli is going to take this character, who many see as being a simple Boy Scout-figure, and reveal the primal struggles for balance and actualization that motivate us all. His spirit and passion will really bring Jon’s character to life. We are excited to have him, and I hope you are all excited as well!

Today is also the last day to support the Kickstarter! Please consider checking out our great incentives and contributing to the project!

In Your DREAMS! Producers J.L. Topkis and Russell Barlett

Everyone has a dream. Ours is to make incredible independent cinema, starting with our first feature length film IN SEARCHING. We can definitely accomplish this goal! When it comes to dreams, it has been said that the sky is the limit, so Producers J.L. Topkis and Russell Bartlett muse on this idea.

Is there someone in the industry whose talent you particularly respect, or whom you aspire to achieve to a similar same level of success some day?

Topkis: Stanley Kubrick is my favorite filmmaker. I don’t desire to be overly prolific; I want to spend time crafting stories that connect you to important meditations on life. He operated outside the industry, and mastered a ton of different genres. His works are gripping, you can feel the depth right away.


If you could work with one artist (director, actor) in the entertainment industry, who would you chose to work with and why? 


Topkis: I want to work with an A-list actor so a billion people will see my movie and then I’ll get to make another movie! More specifically, I’d love to watch Christopher Nolan work – especially in development. Each of his films establish rules and carry such a marvelous tone and style. To study how he develops ideas before his direction becomes set in stone would be illuminating.

BartlettIf I was able to work with one director, it would have to be a directing pair- the Coen Brothers. I would really appreciate the chance to work with Brad Pitt.

We’ve got a long way to go before we’d be leaders in the entertainment industry, but we’re banking on working hard to do what we love for now.

What’s your dream? Share with us your comments, and join the conversation!


Our Influences: Mike Bash

mikebashtheatricalscruffsmirkMike Bash, a veteran at Heart-Beat Productions, is a supporting actor for IN SEARCHING. He’s playing the role of Vincent, a homeless man with a heart-of-gold that guides our leading character Jon during the night. We love having him on board not only because of his excellent experience in the industry, but also because of his awesome sense of humor. It’s always awesome to get to know who you’re working with more intimately, so we asked him about his influences.

What was your biggest influence in your initial decision to make movies?

My initial influence would probably have to be actors like Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Gary Oldman. Daniel Day Lewis - as I got into college, I started to see his brilliance. Tom Hanks.

I think it’s something that can’t be done today… they were playing outside of their type, they were playing – they were just great actors. They weren’t great at “this”, or great at “that.” They were just great actors.

What’s your first movie that inspired you to be involved in film production?

I would have to say the first movie that really inspired me to look at filmmaking versus just acting was NETWORK by Sidney Lumet. Paddy Chayefsky wrote it, Sidney Lumet directed it. Just incredible. Just amazing watching his trust of the actors, how the whole story was told, and how he – again – just trusted his actors to tell that story, and it made me actually want to eventually try film.

Cool. How about media. Do you have any books or films that you find particularly influential?

Audition by Michael Shurtleff is amazing. I think world-wide, it’s one of the best books going. Aside from the different view points, and the different tent poles he has in there that make up a great acting performance.

For filmmaking, I don’t know so much. ‘An Actor Prepares,’ Uta Hagen. Just a lot of really great books that we had to read in school that I’m sure everyone’s already heard of. They don’t need to hear more about. [Laughs.]

Thank you for sparing us.


Is there someone in the industry whose talent you particularly respect, or aspire to achieve to a similar level of success one day?

Man. So many. I mean… you look at people like Tom Hanks again, you look at people like Denzel Washington who is, just, always good. Just always so well prepared, and just brings such great energy to his roles. I mean that’s… a crazy question; there’s so many people!

I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately, too. And a lot of these TV. actors, how they come in, be serious regulars, and go on and do other things, and how they fit so well into their characters, and they develop them over the years, over the seasons – that’s something I definitely aspire to.

If you could work with any actor or director, who would it be?

Well, definitely Sidney Lumet. But he’s dead, so I can’t do that.

Maybe someone who’s alive….

[Laughs.] Yeah. Awe man. So many names….


As far as directors, I don’t know names as well as I’d like to. The guy who just did ARBITRAGE with Richard Geer []. I forget his name, but he was a great, great director. And as far as acting – man – Tom Hanks, De Niro – ESPECIALLY after SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK just to show that he still has it in the tank. Bradley Cooperr, Daniel Day Lewis. I mean, how long do you have? There’s so many amazing actors out there.

I’m hearing Tom Hanks a lot here.

I DO love Tom Hanks! Yeah, he’s an every-man that’s been able to do so much with his career, and he’s just a normal looking guy – I love it.

Mike Bash is an every man too. We want to support bring Mike Bash’s acting to that next level. Check out our Kickstarter to contribute!


“Calm Seas Never Made For a Good Mariner”

A tribute from Producer Russell Bartlett on his love of sailing, to his passion for filmmaking.

Undoubtedly whatever engages your energy and concentration will define you. For myself, sailing and being out on the water is a way of life. Raised on Nantucket, water shaped where I lived, dictated how I spent my time, and was certainly a part of my life. In the summertime it was days at the beach bodysurfing and getting tossed about by the waves. In high school it was competitive sailing throughout the entire year in the racing scene in Massachusetts. So while I never pursued sailing in college, it definitely followed me.

Photo by Jim Powers

Photo by Jim Powers

In March of 2011 I received a call from a fellow Nantucket High School alum, Connor Wallace, who was, at the time, the first mate of the Impala, a 57’ yatch. The Impala was embarking on her fourth transatlantic crossing and was in need of a fifth crew member and, in a moment of serendipity, I was recommended to be on the crew.

While aboard the Impala, a total of 26 days at sea, the crew did not once step ashore. Our lives were tied to the 57’ foot yacht and she began to take on a story of her own. To me, the Impala is a living, breathing, spirit. The boat didn’t just transport us across the Atlantic, from one side to the other, she bore us across, like a protector and friend. When we were fighting our way through a storm, gritting our teeth in frustration, her wooden sides were groaning with stress as well. The Impala grew on me, just as films I have worked on in the past have grown on me.

Being aboard the Impala was very much a collaborative process. Between relying on Watch Partners to keep an eye out on potential vessels on the horizon, changing sails, assisting in navigation, or what ever else would arise, if the community had not contributed, the crew would not have succeeded. Creating art as a whole is a highly collaborative process as well; from relying heavily on the continued offerings and opinions of trusted mentors and friends, to the communication of ones ideas to a crew or other team members, the community and its efforts are the keys to success.


The fluidity of sailing mirrors the organic flow of filmmaking. Challenges come at you from every single direction while making a film and when sailing, and you simply have to take them in stride. Moving from one task to the next helps progress the film to the next step, and helps to advance you toward the final destination, but it’s hard to get to that next step without a good team.

At times Filmmaking can feel as though all the wind in the world is raging around you and propelling you dangerously out of control, or as if you’re dead in the doldrums listening to your sails flap and lines bang against the mast like an angst-filled teen. It’s all about going with the flow.

When sailing or on set, it’s crucial to recognize what circumstances are out of your control and accepting them. Some days the wind blows and some days there isn’t a ripple on the water.  All you can do is understand the elements that are at hand and figure out a way to employ what you have planned for and tweak the rest to the best of your ability.

Any headway while out in the Atlantic was beneficial, just as any day with something in the can is better then nothing. In the end, just remember three things: Be Prepared, a Boy Scout motto that’s served me well; you can always concoct some sort of “ade”, even if it’s not lemonade; and finally, if people can band together for a shared goal, success will always follow.



Our Influences: Evan Hall

Evan Hall headshot


Evan Hall plays our villainous antagonist Erik in IN SEARCHING, a small town rock star who will steam roll anyone on his way to the top. When we asked Evan what inspired him to act in the entertainment industry, we learned that in real life – true to his character – Evan has got some rock star dedication – as well as a serious soft side.

What was the first movie you can remember watching that inspired you to be involved in the production of films in the future?

I remember the first film that hit me… greater than just a nice fun story, or two hours of detox was SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. I remember watching that film by myself, in the dark, in my house (I was sixteen), and within the first 5 minutes just bawling my eyes out. That was the experience where I realized…this was an artform that I wanted to pursue.

If you could work with any professional in the entertainment industry, who would you work with and why?

[If] we’re not just talking about film, I would work with Mark Rylance, hands down. I think he’s commitment to the work, and commitment to acting is something that I would learn a lot from.

Gary Oldman in the film industry! His level of dedication, and his level of commitment to a character, and breaking a character down – I would literally follow that guy around all day and he would get so angry with me because all I would do is just stare at him and wait for him to make a move or do something, and then I’d write it down [laughs] and do it later!

What interests you the most about acting?

[Because] I enjoy being in other worlds… I enjoy fantasizing, and I enjoy other people’s perceptions and playing out those perceptions or points of view. But really it comes down to the fact that I love it beyond words, and I don’t know why. That’s what’s most interesting to me – that I’ve never felt this way about anything in my life.

And we can’t imagine casting a more dedicated actor for IN SEARCHING. Learn more about Evan, and all of the other cast members on, and visit our Kickstarter  to help us show case excellent talent like Evan’s to the fullest extent!


Let’s Get Ready to Rumble..

Jake and Russell Filming

At this point, we are less than two weeks away from the conclusion of this Kickstarter, a milestone in the production of IN SEARCHING! While the Heart-Beat team is extremely excited to have come this far, we recently took the time to sit down with the two producers, Jake and Russell, to get their thoughts on the progress.

At this point, halfway through the Kickstarter, what has this campaign been for IN SEARCHING?

Russell Bartlett: I’m honestly all over the place. One part of me is very invested in these next ten days, but the majority of my energy is going into the next eight weeks of filming.

Jake Topkis: This Kickstarter really has been a cool way to announce IN SEARCHING…

RB: The Kickstarter has pushed me to step forward and approach people, and I really enjoy that. I enjoy that personal connection I can make with someone that’s interested in what I’m doing, and then I can just tell them that ‘You can go to and check us out!’ it really brought all the pieces together.

This Kickstarter has pushed us to talk to people that may not have come across our message in other ways, and that’s been great.

So talk to me about the pressures that you are facing? What obstacles are on the horizon for IN SEARCHING?

JT: I wouldn’t really say there are obstacles, but there are some definite challenges. Locking in locations, for example, is a challenge, and the logistics of managing a team of 40 people is crazy, and this is an independent project, so we can’t compete with Hollywood jobs, and we have to motivate our team from the heart.

RB: But the history of Heart Beat really backs up what we want to do. We have a history of being progressive and making stories ahead of our time, and we are really confident in this story.

So what have these obstacles taught you along the way?

RB: There’s a lot that we’re learning, honestly. Each day is something new.

JT: Yeah, I mean, I’m starting to approach each day as both a business and a pleasure, which is a feat in and of itself. I’m learning the benefits and downsides of working with your friends, but also using the knowledge that I’ve gained in earlier projects.

Is there anything in particular that you’d like the world to know about IN SEARCHING? . . .

Get the whole story! Consider backing this great project and get updates on IN SEARCHING production, Heart-Beat news and great personalized Heart-Beat memorabilia. Check out our Kickstarter in these last few weeks, we are excited, and we hope you are too!


Update: Script Locked

photoJust like any quest, Heart-Beat has encountered a variety of truly exciting checkpoints as we move toward July and the start of production. As of today, we have officially locked the script for IN SEARCHING!

Locking this script is a feat of triumph, commitment, and passion, as well as a culmination of years of life and writing, months and days of editing, and lots and lots of feedback. From today onward, the locations at which we’ll be filming in our 25 days of production are set and locked in place. This allows us to solidify our production plan and budget since we know exactly where we’ll be and when. More importantly, locking this script has transformed IN SEARCHING from a simple story into grand saga of growth and actualization. It truly is a fantastic piece of work on both an artistic and realistic level. The Heart-Beat team is ecstatic with the idea of bringing this script to life for you, the viewer.

Progress on the screenplay accelerated last September, when Jake handed his draft off to Joe Prestine. Joe met Jake at Emerson when he was trying to find someone to produce his short film scripts. They didn’t work together during college, but it was in the cards to reconnect for IN SEARCHING. Joe is a night-owl, like Jake, and the story gradually improved after many hours on the phone and drafts being passed back-and-forth. Without a doubt, the work that Joe put into the screenplay is a major factor in how comfortable we feel heading into production.

The characters of IN SEARCHING are going to resonate with audiences. With four lead roles (Jon, Michelle, Cole, and Erik) comes four dynamic arcs. Each character wants to reach the next stage of their lives, but first they have to find a way to get out of their current situations. For our Producer, Russell, these are people that “I know as well as some of my best friends. I care about them and love them, and they move me as they grow throughout this story.”

The world of IN SEARCHING is an epic in its own right, and the potential is endless. Jake draws inspiration from many classics (REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, AMERICAN GRAFFITI, DAZED & CONFUSED, etc.) and has drawn from the tropes of the coming-of-age genre and synthesized those past examples to create a refreshing and compelling angle on what it means to grow up.

For Jake, “IN SEARCHING is something I’ve been with living with for years and there are moments that are in my head so clearly composed. I know it will all take on another level when other artists like the actors finally get to embody each moment.” A screenplay is a living document – designed to be revised at each stage of the production. We are ecstatic to bring IN SEARCHING to the screen for you, and hope that you can help us do that, as well.

Did you know? One of our incentive levels gets you a personal script!

Don’t miss out!

Our Influences: The Giants Before Us

During IN SEARCHING, Cole looks up to his friend Jon as not only his close friend but as a role model. That got us at Heart-Beat to think about the people in our lives that inspire us. So we asked IN SEARCHING’s Scott Morris and our Sound Operator and Post Engineer Peter D’Angelo about the greats in their life that have taught them to reach for the stars.

Scott Morris

Scott Morris

Peter D'Angelo

Peter D’Angelo

Is there someone in the industry whose talent you particularly respect, or whom you aspire to achieve to a similar same level of success some day?

PETER: [Editor] Walter Murch is my greatest role model. This is the man who is largely responsible for creating the role of the sound designer. He is an innovator and pioneer in every sense of the words. From first paying particular attention to the sonic character of film, bringing it to the forefront of directors’ consciousness to creating the first 5.1 surround mix in a major film with Apocalypse Now, he has my complete admiration and respect.

SCOTT: [Fred] Raskin and Stephen Mirrione are among the top of the list. I had the honor to see both of these men speak, and their passion for filmmaking was impressive. They have wonderful careers and I have the feeling a big part of it has to do with the fact that these guys just love the art of film editing and movie making. That kind of devotion and love is what drives me. Also to note is that both editors have great relationships with their directors. That kind of loyalty and collaboration is a major driving force for me as well.

Who inspired you to love editing?

SCOTT: Robert Rodriguez.

PETER: I know I have been bringing him up a lot, but Walter Murch is by far the greatest influence in my audio career. I contribute the reason why I do what I do to him. His films are experiences to me, they push beyond simply watching a film, they are aurally engaging. I can only hope to be able to execute and create with the thoughtfulness and care that he has.

Yeah, we love these guys. Help them reach their dreams here.

Learn more about Scott, Peter and the rest of IN SEARCHING team at